krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
A sort of intuitive feeling made me decide a while ago to save "12 to the Moon" ("Doughnuts?") for towards the very end of this long project of rewatching and commenting on the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The short included with the episode might have added a good bit to that feeling, of course, but I was at least willing to be hopeful about the movie itself.

After Mike and Gypsy's small talk over tea turns thoroughly awkward, TV's Frank's commemorative roast of Dr. Forrester turns thoroughly mean ("In all sincerity, Dr. Forrester, I hope you die a slow, painful death, secure in the knowledge that nobody loves you."), and Tom thoroughly melts down during the Satellite of Love's tennis match ("What is your problem! What are you, blind? Why don't you grow some hair!"), it's on to "Design for Dreaming." A short-haired woman sings about a dream in which she's invited by a masked and top-hatted man to "Motorama," where production models and concept cars of the (then) five aspirational brands of General Motors are on display ("This is a rebuttal to Roger and Me."), with a digression where the woman gets rushed back to the kitchen only to find it operated by push buttons and able to automatically not just frost a cake but put candles on it. After some interpretive dance ("While she's dancing, the Japanese are making great cars."), the woman is reunited with the man at the fanciest concept car yet ("The extension of my manhood car!" "Do you have it in red?" "That's a six-week delivery, ma'am.") and they drive off on "the highway of tomorrow." ("Look, dead racoon of tomorrow." "Future may not appear as seen. Personal fates may vary. Future not available in Africa, India, or Central South America.") It's all very energetic and soft-selling yet entertainingly odd, and it inspires the "host segments" for the episode where "Nuveena" pops onto the Satellite and offers (in best end-of-season fashion, perhaps) to take everyone away with her ("Boy, I'm really going to miss this old satellite. Hey, can we blow it up when we leave?"); however, when she turns the robots into kitchen appliances, Mike must send her away.

As for the movie, the "twelve to the moon" are about the most multicultural, mixed-gender, and interracial crew conceivable for the late 1950s; the commander, though, does happen to be American. ("Yes, I'm Captain Cliff Beefpile." "What's goin' on around here? Any of you Euro-freaks speak English?") (Mostly) stock footage of early Atlas missile tests launches the "Lunar Eagle Number One" to the moon complete with experimental animals; the trip is stretched out by having to dodge meteoroids before a safe landing is made. The crew activates "invisible electromagnetic ray screens" to seal up the old-fashioned helmets of their surplus high-altitude survival suits, and footfall is made. ("Walk slow and stupid, we're on the moon!") More minor incidents stretch out the exploration, and a man and one of the two women from the crew get away from the group to a cave where there just happens to be air, and it also just happens there's something going on between them. ("You know, you can only apply one-sixth the tongue on the moon.") In the process, though, they get locked away by an ice barrier even as "lunar quicksand" pulls another moonwalker in, the captain narrowly escaping the same fate. ("Good thing I'm the hunky American leader or I'd be done for.")

Then, mysterious people from within the moon itself contact the crew through nonsensical "hieroglyphics" the Japanese woman just happens to be able to read, warning them to leave but asking that they leave the experimental cats behind. The Lunar Eagle Number One blasts off ("Captain's log. We're running away as fast as we can. We lost Ingrid and Omar, too bad." "So Operation Fraidy-Cat comes to an end!") and dodges still more meteoroids before it turns out that North America is frozen by the still-irate moon people. A plan is hatched to launch a miniature rocket and drop tiny atomic bombs into a live volcano; while the French astronaut tries to sabotage this to re-establish European superiority in the world, he's quickly subdued, and the old son of a Nazi and the Israeli astronaut (whose siblings didn't survive the Holocaust, just to make the timing of things a little more confusing) are picked by lot to drop the bombs. The effects get that much cheaper, and the bombs don't quite save the day, but it seems the miniature rocket goes out of control and crashes as well. This (eventually) gives the moon people a change of heart, and the survivors prepare to land in their best semblance of triumph.

Something about the acting and general nature of the movie made it funny all on its own to me, although of course the "riffing" helped; our heroes come up with a list of ridiculous names for the American commander, prefiguring "Space Mutiny." The episode might well be twinned with "First Spaceship on Venus," although where many seem to prefer the Joel episode this one seems a bit sharper to me. In any case, it led in well to the real wrapping-up just ahead.

May 2017

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